The Song of Water (Mound of Gaia Vol. 1)
The Song of Water (Part 2)
PART TWO: The Tribute
“Perhaps we should wait until the rain stops?” Sam said.
Evander slipped into his touring motorcycle jacket, the black waxed cotton perfect for the rain and the pockets ideal for hiding a myriad of weapons.
“My puppy isn’t scared of a little rain, is he?” Evander laughed, slinging an arm around Sam’s neck, and nuzzling against his ear.
Sam rolled his eyes. “What did I say about the “p” word outside of the bedroom?”
“That you love it?” He crowded Sam against the coat closet door, slotting one leg between Sam’s and then rising to his full height. Sam, being shorter, was forced onto his toes, but managed to roll his hips against Evander’s thigh.
“Not that I don’t appreciate the view, but can we save the foreplay for after we figure out why these soggy assholes are shitting all over our life?” Vera said, laying a sharp smack across the ass of Evander’s jeans.
“You’re no fun when you’re crabby,” Sam said. There was a crack like breaking rock and buffeting of air as Sam slipped into his hound-form. He paced over to Vera and nudged her hand with his muzzle.
“And you’re an attention whore regardless of whether you’re on two legs or four,” she said, but there was no heat behind the jibe. Vera scratched behind one of his ears. “Shall we?”
Vera aimed for comfort and movement when she faced the charged unknown and had chosen a black wool shift dress paired with her favorite black jeans and a structured ruby cape that was more Rei Kawakubo than it was Renn Faire. She scooped up a silver ewer from the kitchen before the three headed out the back door to the dock behind the house.
The Pronoe River was swollen in her banks, the chop stippled by the deluge that fell from the sky. Sam trotted ahead onto the dock, his heightened senses attuned to seek out the presence of danger. Vera and Evander waited until Sam turned and issued two short, sharp barks. The three lovers stood at the edge of the dock, the pilings rocking with the force of the current. Vera handed the silver ewer to Evander, who filled it with river water and presented it back to her with a deferential bow.
She whispered a shielding charm to hide them from the eyes of the uninitiated. A neighbor looking out of a window would see only undefined shadows in the darkness before the memory vanished from their mind like a puff of breath in the morning fog. She held the ewer in both hands, lifting it aloft, like she was offering it to the storm. Earth, water, fire, and air coalesced within the confines of her body and radiated outward, shimmering on the surface of her skin like she was wrapped in starlight. Evander and Sam felt the telltale swirl that started in the core of their bodies. The sensation radiated outward, racing like fire along the length of each man’s spine, and they were pulled forward by that burning force, accompanying Vera through the ancient Passage and into the Beyond.
The night was clear in the Beyond with a full moon sailing high against the sky. It was much like the earthly plane, save the chorus of life force that resonated in everything from the wind to the deepest well of the molten earth. The Ancients had retreated to the Beyond when the world was young and humans were emerging from their caves, blinking in the sunlight as they experienced their first inkling of intelligence. The Mound of Gaia were the Keepers of the Passage and Vera, who wore the Crown of the High Votaress, was their queen.
A large barge of woven reeds floated beside the dock. A woman stood on the prow; her skin was black as volcanic sand. A feral rage glowed in her azure eyes and lent her stern expression a measure of savagery. The woman was swathed in a gown of water that flowed over her body like a serpent twining itself around a branch. Sam growled. Evander stepped in front of Vera.
“You two need to settle down,” Vera said. Evander opened his mouth to complain and she walked around them both.
“Thetis.” Vera bowed. “To what do I owe the pleasure?”
“Has the Mound of Gaia forsaken the Water Court?” The Daemon’s voice thundered like white water roaring over the edge of a cliff. Thetis was the Daemon of the Water Court, an irascible elemental being that, much like the element from which she had been formed, could soothe or rend depending on her mood.
“Not last time I checked. Why, what do you think we did this time?”
“My children suffer, poisoned in the blood that flows across the human’s earth. Yet we forebear sweeping these lower beings into our frigid depths, but reap no harvest for our mercy.”
The Elemental Daemons were a cagey bunch. They reveled in cryptic riddles and hating humans. Communicating with them required a great deal of patience. Vera was suddenly glad that they had played that evening. She had bled off the stress of the day with a spectacular orgasm, which would make wading through Thetis’ minefield of backwards elemental logic easier.
“The Water Court’s harvest is its bounty, what more might we give to reward your great beneficence.” Vera struggled not to gag on her own words.
“The Feast of Achelous passed with no tribute.”
Vera resisted the urge to snarl. Elemental Daemons feasted every ancient god on the books and demanded a tribute for each one. Vera was certain they purposefully forgot to mention upcoming feasts because they enjoyed being offended.
“I assure you that the Mound of Gaia intended no slight. Please, as High Votaress how might I rectify this injury and honor Achelous.”
“Will you make the Song of Water as tribute?” Thetis said.
Vera nodded. She had not anticipated a tribute and so, had not prepared. Evander and Sam would be furious afterward, but it could not be helped. She crouched down beside Sam and scratched under his chin.
“I’m going to need you on two legs for this, love,” she said. She stood up and placed her hand over Evander’s heart. “You okay?”
He nodded once, a curt bob of his head, never taking his eyes from Thetis’ face. Evander had fixed his gaze on Thetis the moment she appeared. He was a gentle man with Vera and Sam. The kind of lover that made pancakes on Sunday mornings and cups of tea on rainy days. His love for Vera and Sam was unapologetic and unparalleled, but he was also a Guardian. He embodied the unrestrained fury of a hurricane and there were no lengths to which he would not go to protect his family.
Sam shifted with a loud crack and stood beside Evander, his face grim. Both of her lovers knew the tremendous toll that the Daemon’s tributes took on Vera. If asked, each man would articulate the respect they had for her as High Votaress and the necessity of the tributes, but they worried like a brood of hens over her during the days it took to regain her energy. Tributes were different for each court; the Water Court demanded that the Votaress performing the rite open her body and mind and serve as a conduit for the element.
Vera stripped off her clothes and presented herself to Thetis, with Evander on her right and Sam on her left. They crowded close, poised to catch her if she were to fall.
“I offer myself as a vessel of tribute, Thetis, Daemon of the Water Court.”
Thetis thrust out her hands and water streamed from the tips of her fingers, surging in ribbons toward Vera. The water encircled her and trailed across her skin. Vera shivered at its cool touch, like an endless scarf of silk flowing across her body. It teased her breasts, her thighs, and the delicate skin at her center. She gave in to the energy building in her body as the force of the water caressing her increased, pulling a moan from her throat. It was as if Thetis herself flowed inside her, lavishing her womanhood with rising intensity.
Prickling chills teased the buds of her nipples until they were hard, aching with an enchanting tangle of pleasure and pain. Vera’s body thrummed with desire and she writhed against the waves that kept her upright. She was blazing with a craving for release, the heat at her core building to a crescendo, while the water that stroked her skin shifted from the blue of a becalmed ocean to the brilliant white that rides the crest of each wave.
Vera began to tremble with the force of her release and her mind became consumed by the vision of a mountain stream tumbling down to flatter land. The stream joined a broad river that rushed through canyons banded by sandstone, across arid plains, and out to the open sea. Her mouth opened and the sound of that journey poured out of her, from the trickle and plink of water deep within an earthen cavern to the crashing might of the ocean.
As Thetis’ water began to recede, Vera lost consciousness falling into the safety of Evander and Sam’s arms.
She woke days later, safe in her bed, with Evander curled around her back, his breath ghosting across her neck in gentle puffs as he slept. Sam was sitting up against the headboard, reading. His eyes were tired and Vera knew, without asking, that Evander and Sam had been resting in shifts, so she would not wake up alone.
“Hey.” She tried to speak and frowned. Her throat was raw from the tribute and it came out sounding more like the croaking caw of a raven.
Sam set his book aside and brushed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes. “You know better than to try to speak.” His chiding was gentle.
She cleared her throat again, but could still manage no more than a whisper. “How long?”
“Two days. I’m not surprised, you had no time to prepare yourself, which, by the way, was stupid. Can we agree that we don’t do tributes on the fly anymore? I thought Evander was going to lose his mind yesterday.”
“He’s lying to make himself look cool. Sam was ready to go back and start some shit if you didn’t come out of it soon.” Evander sounded groggy, but his voice was suffused with relieved warmth.
“I’m fine,” Vera whispered. “I’m also starving.” Her stomach clenched with a pang of hunger.
Sam leaned over to his bedside table and came back with a bottle of neon-colored sports drink. “How about we start with this and work up to food?”
“Fair.” She took a sip, grimacing at the watered down-sweetness and the lingering taste of salt. “How’s the store?”
“All covered. The back room cleaned up fine, we didn’t lose any stock and the Water Court is appeased for at least the next few months.”
“They better be.” The more that Vera moved, the more she felt the ache of strained muscles. A wave of exhaustion swept over her and she put her head back on her pillow. Sam plucked the drink from her hand and she snuggled against Evander, soaking in the heat that poured off his body.
“Go back to sleep, love,” Sam whispered. “We’ll force Evy to make us pancakes when you wake up.” Vera smiled and Sam stroked her hair with one hand and picked up his book with the other.
Vera Desailliers drifted back to her dreams; she was lulled to sleep by the sounds of her home, from Evander’s gentle snores and Sam’s steady breath, to the creak of bedsprings, and the gusts of November wind mouthing at the eaves.
Anne Stagg's 'Mound of Gaia' series is a Bellesa exclusive.